KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A seven-hour police search of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s property as part of a money-laundering investigation being pushed by his successor did not find any incriminating documents, his lawyer said Thursday.
Najib’s lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal told The Associated Press that police seized several boxes of personal possessions including handbags and clothing. He said the search of Najib’s house and an upscale condominium in Kuala Lumpur that is occupied by his family was carried out under the anti-money laundering act.
New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who pulled a stunning election victory last week that unseated Najib’s National Front coalition after 60 years in power, reopened a probe into a state investment fund that is being investigated abroad. Najib started the fund in 2009 and U.S. investigators say at least $4.5 billion was stolen and laundered by Najib’s associates, some of which landed in his bank account.
Mahathir said Wednesday that arrests will be made as soon as there is evidence and there’ll be “no deal” for Najib.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing but the raids fueled speculation his arrest may be imminent. He and his wife were barred from traveling overseas.
“He was calm and of course upset, but the whole family cooperated,” Grewal said of his client.
More than a dozen police vehicles arrived at Najib’s house late Wednesday shortly after he returned home from prayers at a nearby mosque. Grewal said that Najib’s house was filled with dozens of boxes as he had just moved out of the prime minister’s residence.
Grewal said the search lasted nearly seven hours and he didn’t know why there was still a large police presence outside Najib’s house on Thursday.
Police gave no indication that Najib, 64, will be arrested soon but Grewal added Najib will cooperate if he is summoned for questioning.
Commercial crime director Amar Singh Ishar Singh told the media that police were searching for evidence at several locations. He declined to give details. Police officials did not comment.
Mahathir, 92, said an initial investigation showed the scale of wrongdoing by Najib’s administration was more serious than expected.
He said he has met with ousted Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, who said he had been preparing to file criminal charges against Najib when he was abruptly removed in 2015. Gani led an investigation by multiple agencies into the scandal at the time, which was later closed after Najib was cleared of wrongdoing.
Mahathir said the government will seek to retrieve billions of dollars laundered from the 1MDB state investment fund to repay government debts that have piled up over the years.
“The focus on corruption is important because we need to get back money which is still in Switzerland, the U.S., Singapore and maybe Luxembourg. For this, we will contact the governments of the countries to recover the money there,” Mahathir said. “The money belongs to Malaysia and it came from 1MDB. We will appeal for the money to be returned to Malaysia.”
He said the government is also committed to repaying any debts linked to the fund that it has guaranteed.
The government has also told the current attorney general, who cleared Najib of wrongdoing in 2016, to go on leave, and has relieved the country’s treasury chief, who is also the 1MDB chairman.
By EILEEN NG,By Associated Press – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC (A.S)